Heart attacks are not something that most teens worry about, but they may be closer to one than they realize.
Four out of five cardiac arrests happen at home, according to the American Heart Association.
"Sudden cardiac arrest is a common problem, not necessarily in young people, but in older people and they may be learning a skill to save an aunt or an uncle or a grandparent or even a parent," says Dr. Dianne Atkins, who works with the Emergency Cardiovascular Care Committee of the American Heart Association.
That's why some states are starting to require cardiopulmonary resuscitation and automated external defibrillator instruction be taught in high schools. In some states, learning CPR is even a high school graduation requirement.
"I remembered doing it in class, but everything kind of kicked in once I started realizing what was happening. I knew to get on his chest and immediately started compressing," Harry Bell told the Tribune.
Bystander CPR provided immediately after sudden cardiac arrest can double or triple a victim’s chance of survival, yet only 32 percent of victims receive get CPR from an onlooker, according to the American Heart Association.
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U. S. News spoke with experts who answered some of the common questions parents have when new requirements are introduced.
1. Are teenagers strong enough to perform CPR?
Most teenagers are close to their adult size, Atkins says, and thus have the physical size, strength and ability to be able to reliably perform chest compressions. She says it takes about 50 kilos – roughly 110 pounds – of pressure to perform chest compressions.
2. How long does the instruction take?
The length somewhat depends on the goals of the training and how it is done, Atkins says, but can be completed effectively in as little a one-time 30-minute session. Training generally takes a few hours if students want to receive a card that indicates they’ve been trained, Atkins says.
Students are generally taught Hands-Only CPR, without mouth-to-mouth breathing, as the American Heart Association recommends for people who aren't health care providers, Atkins says. Coaches, school nurses or parents who have been trained in CPR conduct training in some schools, Atkins says, but most often it is completed in physical education and health classes.
In Washington, CPR and AED instruction is included in health classes, says Lisa Rakoz, program supervisor for health and fitness education for the state.[Learn about sexual assault prevention programs.]
3. How much does CPR training cost schools?
The cost involved is very minimal, if any, state officials say.
"Schools that currently do it on their own are using the resources of the local fire service, the American Red Cross, the American Heart Association," says state Rep. Daniel Burke of Chicago, who sponsored the legislation that recently passed in Illinois.
In Washington state, some schools have also taken advantage of free resources from these types of organizations, says Rakoz.
4. What happens if you perform CPR incorrectly on someone in cardiac arrest?
Most states have good Samaritan laws that protect people who have voluntarily offered aid in an emergency.
If someone were to feel nervous or inadequate about their ability to perform CPR, Atkins says that it is important to remember that the person suffering cardiac arrest has died and that nothing the bystander does can make the situation worse.
"Any effort to deliver CPR is better than none," she says.
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